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Movie Review

The Words

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and smoking.

Reviewed by: Thaisha Geiger

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Romance Thriller Drama
1 hr. 36 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 7, 2012
DVD: December 26, 2012
Copyright, CBS Films Inc. click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, CBS Films Inc. Copyright, CBS Films Inc. Copyright, CBS Films Inc. Copyright, CBS Films Inc. Copyright, CBS Films Inc. Copyright, CBS Films Inc.
Relevant Issues
Copyright, CBS Films Inc.

plagiarism / plagiarized novel




war (WWII)

death of a child

strain on marriage



Featuring: Olivia WildeDanielle
Zoe SaldanaDora Jansen
Bradley CooperRory Jansen
Dennis QuaidClay Hammond
Jeremy IronsThe Old Man
J.K. SimmonsMr. Jansen
Ben Barnes
more »
Director: Brian Klugman
Lee Sternthal
Producer: Also Known As Pictures
Benaroya Pictures
more »
Distributor: CBS Films Inc.

“There’s more than one way to take a life.”

“The Words” is a story within a story… within a story. Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) reads an excerpt from his book titled The Words. We see Daniella (Olivia Wilde) sit in the auditorium, as the story begins. Clay’s novel opens with Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) and his wife Dora (Zoe Saldana) going to an awards ceremony, where Rory is to be honored for his bestselling novel.

The film then goes back five years when Rory is just another struggling writer in New York City. Though he and Dora are happy, Rory feels unsuccessful in his life. The words never flow onto his laptop to create that one perfect novel. When on their honeymoon in Paris, Dora buys her new husband an antique briefcase. Upon inspecting it, Rory finds a faded manuscript about a remarkable love story in postwar France. Wanting to simply feel the stellar words, Rory types the manuscript word for word. When his wife mistakenly believes it’s his own work and cries at the beauty of it, Rory sells the manuscript as his own. After enormous success, an old man (Jeremy Irons) tells Rory the true story behind the manuscript.

Where is the line drawn between life and fiction? It appears that the film attempts to delude the answer. Who are the real couples and the fictional ones? Or perhaps everything is a mixture of both biography and fiction, creating a semi-autobiographical tale of Clay Hammond. The film gives the audience a few clues, from carefully placed props to reenacted scenes from both literary couples.

Placing so many stories within the plot really limits the film from reaching its full potential. While the movie is never confusing, depth is sadly lacking and the plot thoroughly predictable. The theatrical trailer gave away the majority of the plot, so I found myself waiting for Rory to meet “the old man.” It would have been a more favorable move to really dig deep into the psyche of a failed writer and why written words are so important, especially to the thousands who will never see their works published. One literary agent tells Rory that his novel is “too interior.” What does this mean? This exploration likely would have been beneficial.

“The Words” definitely isn’t a poor film. Some of the dialog is memorable, but the true success are all the performances. For me, Jeremy Irons is the standout in both narrator and actor. It was nice to see Bradley Cooper in a less vulgar film. He and Zoe Saldana possess great chemistry on-screen. Though a bit one dimensional, Dora is shown as a supportive wife; this is such a nice change from the too often miserable character couples written in today’s films.

Surprisingly, there are no graphic sex scenes. Dora and Rory are briefly shown to be living together. While moving in, Rory lies on top of Dora and kisses her. In one scene, she tries to entice him and shakes her derrière. After this scene, they are married and share a few more kisses. In the flashback of the old man in postwar Paris, he kisses his wife and takes off her dress; only her shoulders are shown. When Clay meets Daniella, one can feel their instant attraction; his agent tells him no foreplay. They later share a passionate kiss, but take it no further.

The film’s main offense is its use of profanity. It’s heavily concentrated in certain portions and scarcely used in the rest. In all, I counted 19 uses: 7 sh_t, 6 GD, 2 “f” words, 3 hells, and 1 as_.

There isn’t really a climatic moment in dealing with Rory’s plagiarism. The effects are shown, but then Rory’s story ends, and we meet back up with Clay. Perhaps his consequence was purposefully vague, allowing the audience to decide whether Rory’s true punishment transcended within the confines of Clay’s novel. Daniella grew frustrated with Clay when he explained how Rory’s life continued on. King Solomon wrote:

Proverbs 28:13: “People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.”

The ending does remain ambiguous, and I believe this is an attempt to make viewers speculate on each character’s exact role in the fictional journey. I don’t personally recommend “The Words”; however, this might be a decent rental. Though aimed to be about an author’s word, the film is mostly a narration of his life, actions and literary rejections.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—“The Words,” is a high concept film about what happens when people make ambition and their dreams more important than those they love. The moral is that you must “Reap what you sow”; and that every choice comes with a consequence. This film is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s plays. It is a story within a story within a story. I recommend that if you intend to see this film, that you pay close attention to what happens. While there is content that is offensive such as sexual scenes (typical Hollywood sex scenes, no nudity) and profanity (pretty mild for PG-13 these days).

I still urge fellow Christians to see the film so that they can talk about it with unbelievers and believers alike. It is a perfect example of what Christ feels like when we decide to do what we want at the expense of our relationship with him. Yes, it is very allegorical, and you can read major Biblical principles into the film. However, there is a universal message that all people should take from the film, and that is, if you love “words” or anything more than your spouse, family, or God, you will lose them. Maybe not God, he said “He shall never leave you or forsake you.” But there is a point when God even says “enough is enough,” and in Revelation 3:16 it does talk about Him “spewing the lukewarm from his mouth.” more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Sir Filmalot, age 23 (USA)
Positive—This is a very good movie. It’s thought provoking, and there are some deep messages in here about life and living with your choices. You have to pay attention, though, because there are quite a few plots going on at once. There was some cursing, a few “f” bombs, but nothing like most of these movies. And there were a few kissing/making-out scenes, but being that it’s on video, I just fast forward those, so that was not that bad either. Very good movie overall, especially how the writer pulled this off. It’s a deep one, like the movie “Inception.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Samantha, age 38 (USA)

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